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19 Celebrations: In Praise of the Particular Voices of Languages at Risk (1999)

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Chapter Summary

Reading an impressive political novel in German years ago, the author was struck by how effectively the novel's author, Joseph Breitbach, made use throughout the entire book of a particular grammatical device that the German language offers its speakers and writers, and also by how impossible it would be to create quite the same effect in English, which lacks a comparable grammatical device. Languages have their individual voices, created equally by the means which they deploy and by the details of the deployment. This chapter looks at East Sutherland Gaelic (ESG) from the point of view of expressive uniqueness, highlighting an expressive resource that ESG speakers, all Gaelic-English bilinguals, have available to them in their Gaelic but not in their English. The feature of ESG that the chapter chiefly discusses is, the emphatic marker, takes somewhat different phonological forms in other dialects of Gaelic.

Keywords: East Sutherland Gaelic (ESG); Gaelic-English bilinguals; German; grammatical device; Joseph Breitbach; political novel; voices of languages



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